For the sake of a song


CD 7, Track 20

TRACK 20 (Mar98-14-s15) Song 9: Karri-ngindji

Sung text  Free Translation 
karra mana meri nganggi kani-djet diyerr kuwama yawa kani-djet na wudi-pumininy-pumininykarra mana meri kani-djet kuwa kagan-dja kisjimeri-gu mana kagan-dja kisji mana ma yawa wudi-pumininy-pumininykarra mana purangang kagan-dja-nginanga-kuwamana nganggi diyerr meri ngalvu wudi-pumininy-pumininy  Brother! Our man is sitting at the foot of the cliffThe Ma-yawa is sitting at the freshwater springBrother is sitting right here where the cliff stands up, like thisIt's brother in human form who is right here like this Brother Ma-yawa! Freshwater springBrother! The tide is coming in on me right hereOur Brother is at the cliff! Many people! Freshwater spring 

Karri-ngindji, the line of cliffs just south of Tjindi Creek in the north of Marri Ammu country, is the Dreaming site (kigatiya) for the Ma-yawa ancestors. They are referred to in a number of Ma-yawa wangga songs. A Ma-yawa ancestor is described in this song (tracks 20 and 21) as ‘a brother [that is, a Dreaming] in human form’ (meri-gu mana).

Wangga Image

The cliffs at Karri-ngindji. (Photograph by Allan Marett, 1999, Tjindi9901-16)

At the foot of the cliff is a freshwater spring (wudi-pumininy) that flows into the sea at high tide, but is exposed at low tide. This is where the Ma-yawa like to sit. Marett has written extensively about two important contexts in which the world of the living and the world of the dead interpenetrate: one is when deceased ancestors appear in the dreams of the living to give them songs; the other is when humans perform the songs, dances and ceremonies given to them by the dead. In Marri Ammu songs and paintings, fresh water represents the living; salt water the dead. The flowing of the freshwater spring into the saltwater ocean therefore symbolises these processes and the liminal space (whether that be dream or ceremony) in which they occur (see further Marett, 2005, p 17).

Because the text phrases of this song are rather long, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish words that occur at the end of the phrase, when the singer’s breath is at its weakest. This situation is not helped by the fact that the two singers do not always agree. This is inevitable when song texts are as unstable as they are here.